Grow Stem Cells with Shrinky-Dinks and a Pipette

Illustration for article titled Grow Stem Cells with Shrinky-Dinks and a Pipette

Shrinky Dinks, the plastic toy that shrinks when you expose it to oven heat, has become the preferred material for lab equipment at Michelle Khine's University of California Merced biology lab. Taking the spirit of DiY life sciences into the realm of the pragmatic, Khine previously used Shrinky Dinks to make microfluidic devices. Now she's shrinking the clear sheets of plastic down to make tiny breeding grounds for stem cells — you can see some of the cells hanging out in the shrinky dink above. Check out a how-to video, below.


According to a Wired Science story:

With the right coaxing, stem cells can turn into almost any kind of tissue, but first they must be grown into clusters called embryoid bodies. Taking care of those cells is a real hassle. They are usually grown in plastic plates with hundreds of deep wells, and the fluid in each one must be changed individually every day.

Using Shrinky Dinks as a mould, Khine and her team cast tiny rubber plates that serve as an ideal nest for stem cells as they develop into embryoid bodies. Because they are so small, and a bit sticky, changing the broth can be done with one quick squirt of a pipette.


I can't wait for the Shrinky Dinks home stem cell kit. Khine should start selling these things on the internets!

How to Grow Stem Cells with a Plastic Toy [Wired Science]

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Annalee Newitz

@Epaminondas: Yeah, same here. Some kind of retro nanotech thing, you think?